Fantasy Mailbag: Two for One

I love this day of writing, because you guys provide all of ideas and I just have to write about them. So, keep sending me your questions, and I’ll keep answering them. Even if I don’t include it in my next fantasy mailbag, I’ll try to answer it as quickly as possible. Please include your full name and the city and state you live in.

I have a question for you about a potential trade. I was offered Derek Lee/Randy Johnson for Todd Helton. I am in a roto 5×5 league and am hurting for Ks. I have Prior (back early June) and Santana (not many Ks yet), so RJ would help. However, I worry about giving up Helton for Lee. What do you think?Aaron Poledna, Rawlins, Wyoming

Normally, I don’t advocate trading quality for quantity. I like to be the one getting the best player in 2-for-1 trades, rather than the one giving up the best player for two lesser players. In this instance, however, although you’re giving up one player and getting two players, I think you’re still getting the best player in the trade.

Helton is probably going to be the best fantasy first baseman this season (Sean Casey has the honor right now, but that won’t last), but Lee is a quality first baseman in his own right. Helton will have a much higher average, but he doesn’t hit as many homers as he used to and I’d expect them both to finish with a home run total in the mid-30’s. Helton will probably have the edge in runs and RBIs as well, but Lee will be adequate.

Meanwhile, Johnson has three wins, a 2.83 ERA, 0.93 WHIP and 68 strikeouts. The only pitcher who’s provided more fantasy value is Roger Clemens and while Johnson might not be able to keep this pace, Clemens certainly won’t be able to, so there’s a decent chance Johnson will be the best fantasy pitcher around this year.

If the only thing you need to do in order to acquire possibly the best fantasy starting pitcher is downgrade from the best first baseman to a merely good first baseman, you should jump at the opportunity. And if Prior comes back and full strength and Santana gets his season righted, you’ll have the pitching depth to improve your offense if you need to later.

I am in a standard 5×5 league. I just traded Bonds for Vernon Wells and Rich Harden. I am in a keeper league where you keep 3 players. Both Harden and Wells are high up on my possible keepers list. Do you think this was a good trade?Tim Moreland, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Tim, unfortunately, I don’t think you got enough in exchange for Bonds. Let’s look at this season first, and then discuss any future ramifications with the keeper situations. This season, Bonds has been doing what he normally does (although he’s in a bit of a slump right now), Wells has struggled (although he’s been hot recently) and Harden has been as inconsistent as you might expect a 22-year-old starter with control problems to be.

This is the kind of trade I was talking about when answering the previous question. The player you gave up is clearly the best player involved and I hesitate to make trades like that because the best players are the hardest ones to get, obviously.

Bonds is definitely going to outproduce Wells by a large margin if both stay reasonably healthy. He’ll hit for a much higher average and he’ll hit many more home runs. The two should be close in runs scored and it wouldn’t surprise me if Wells finishes with more RBIs, but Bonds is going to add more value to a 5×5 fantasy team than Wells, and my a significant amount.

The question, then, is whether Harden makes up for that difference, and he does not. He’ll help you out in strikeouts, but I wouldn’t expect him to give you much better than a 4.50 ERA and 1.35 WHIP. And he’ll probably only win 10-12 games. He’s not a bad guy to have on your team, but he’s not somebody who’s going to come close to making up for the difference between Bonds and Wells.

However, the fact that this is a keeper league makes things a little more complicated. You mentioned that each team keeps three players, which means Harden is not a viable keeper. For a player to really be worth keeping, he should be somebody who would go in the first three rounds if the draft were conducted from scratch. I can’t imagine that Harden will show enough this season to become a third-round pick or better next season.

The ultimate question, then, is whether Wells’ future value is so much greater than Bonds’ that it makes up for the advantage Bonds has this season. I guess you could make a case for your trade there. Wells should be a very good fantasy outfielder for years to come, while Bonds will retire eventually and his production just might decline before then.

However, I still think Bonds has at least one or two good years left in him (after this one). It’s hard to say for sure right now, but I think that if somebody made me choose whether to keep Bonds or Wells this winter, I’d keep Bonds. I know Wells probably has many more good years in him than Bonds, but the potential of a couple great years from Bonds would entice me more.

I wouldn’t say you got ripped off here, Tim, but I think you could have gotten a little bit more in exchange for the greatest offensive machine in the game. Maybe it’s just that I’m not a big fan of Harden’s immediate future value, despite his impressive start last night.

I was wondering if you think it wise to drop Jose Contreras for Jamie Moyer. My other pitchers are Millwood, Wade Miller, Russ Ortiz, and Woody Williams. Not exactly the strongest pitching corps to begin with. My team is definitely strong offensively compared to my pitching. The news on Contreras being sent down to Single A certainly isn’t reassuring and I’ve heard he has to “work his way back up here.” I know Moyer isn’t having the most stellar year either, but his track record is decent and he’s about the only good option left on our waiver wire in a pretty deep-13 team league. I’d love to hear your thoughts. Do you think Contreras is worth saving in the hopes of a rebound?George Monte, Enderlin, North Dakota

Retroactive Review: Ace
Looking back at some of Justin Verlander's most interesting moments.

Contreras didn’t actually stay in Class A for very long, as he went to Class AAA Columbus and made his first start there on Tuesday. He allowed three runs on seven hits and a walk with seven strikeouts in 6 2/3 innings. Not a great outing, but certainly encouraging considering what he was doing in the majors.

I’d actually hang on to Contreras and hope that he gets things turned around. Moyer’s been ignoring his age for awhile now, but it looks like his time may finally be running out. He has a 4.70 ERA and it’s not because he’s been the victim of bad luck or bad defense on balls in play. Quite the opposite, as his .224 batting average allowed on balls in play is improbably good.

The problem for Moyer is that he’s striking out even fewer hitters than normal (5.11 K/9IP) and he’s allowed nine homers in 44 innings. Last year, he allowed 19 homers in 215 innings. Moyer currently is allowing 1.84 homers per nine innings. He’s had a HR/9IP above 1.15 seven times in his career and the only time he had an ERA below 4.75 was when he had a 3.98 ERA in 1996.

I’m not saying that Moyer will continue to allow quite this many homers or that his ERA will stay quite this high, but I would be pretty surprised at this point if he finishes the season with an ERA below 4.00.

Contreras, meanwhile, still has very good “stuff.” The question is whether or not he’ll be able to harness his ability and turn it into results. Even when he gets back to New York (and with Donovan Osborne as the Yankees fifth starter, I don’t think it’ll take long), I’d be hesitant to start him against good offenses. However, I think the potential of Contreras is much better than the potential of Moyer, even though Contreras isn’t currently in the majors. If your league includes strikeouts, then it’s not even close.

Who would you rather have in a 5×5 Roto scoring league, Bernie Williams or Tim Salmon? My team needs all 4 non-SB categories equally and I have 2 trade offers for Rafael Betancourt that include these 2 players.Galen Murray, Cedar Rapids, Iowa

Galen, I’d hang onto Betancourt. He’s pretty much the only pitcher in the Cleveland bullpen who hasn’t completely stunk, and I think he’ll be the closer there for the rest of the season. Even if the Indians are as bad as it looks like they will be this year, Betancourt should be able to pick up 20-25 saves. If you don’t need saves and you really need offense, I’d think you could get something better than Salmon or Williams for him.

I don’t know what the rest of your offense looks like, but I can’t imagine that either Salmon or Williams would even be an improvement over what you’ve got right now. They’re both 35 years old, they’re both dealing with a bunch of injuries and they both look like they’re about washed up. I don’t think either one will finish the season below the Mendoza line, but I also don’t think they’ll come close to being decent fantasy hitters.

If you think you have to trade Betancourt for offense and you think Salmon or Williams is really the best you can get (like I said, I’d have a hard time believing that), I guess I’d go with Williams. At least with him, there’s a chance that he’s just struggling because he missed Spring Training and that he’ll get hot in the second half of the season. I certainly wouldn’t put him in the lineup right now though.

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